Dear Ms. Kim Bereis, Mr. Cole Hood, & Mr. Mike Clark,
I previously wrote to you on January 10th about my concerns with how the Merrimon Ave expansion would negatively impact the Clearview Ter neighborhood where my family and I live. I offered what we as a community agree would be the best option: to connect an already existing partial road to Edgewood Knoll.
My concerns about the Merrimon Ave expansion project go far beyond just my home on Clearview Ter. Although this is a state road, it is very much a neighborhood road, filled with businesses, schools, grocery stores, etc. After speaking to many people in our community, there is strong support and a collective push to make Merrimon Ave a Complete Street where we can walk and ride our bikes safely. I have two boys, 6 & 8, and we often walk on Merrimon Ave from Clearview Ter to the intersection of W.T. Weaver Blvd to go to Weaver park or Luella’s. Walking on Merrimon and crossing at this intersection is an extremely stressful experience. Last summer, my children were almost hit by a car turning from Weaver onto Merrimon (heading north). Not only is crossing this many lanes of traffic unsafe and far from ideal for a neighborhood road, there is absolutely no barrier between the speeding cars and the narrow and crumbling sidewalks on Merrimon. It is an unnerving and often terrifying experience, no matter how often we do it. This must improve, not become more dangerous. Widening is not the answer.
Beyond the issue of safety, I can guarantee that many of the errands I run on Merrimon Ave would be done on foot or bike if I felt safe to do so. We do not need another Hendersonville Rd, or New Leicester Hwy. We need a neighborhood road where the thousands of residents in this area can safely walk or ride their bikes. Not only would this have health benefits, but it would also significantly cut down on traffic. Let’s take some polls. How many students at Claxton don’t walk to school just because they would have to walk on, or cross Merrimon Ave? We could ask the same question about Jones. Or people running errands.
Although there may be commuters who use this road, there are alternatives. I-26 and Broadway are nearby and move much faster than Merrimon Ave ever does. What we need, is to create roadways that encourage less car use. We do not want to encourage urban sprawl or the car cultures that cities like Phoenix and L.A. have created. Turning Merrimon Ave into a Complete Street would also have a positive impact on local businesses that line Merrimon Ave. People would actually have the ability to walk by a store and pop their head in as opposed to driving by at 35 mph.
Why not test this? From my understanding, it would not cost a lot of money to do a test on Merrimon Ave by painting different lanes. Please consider doing a test from the southern-most point on Merrimon Ave all the way up to the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary. The test could have a center turning lane, one lane of travel in each direction, and generous bike lanes of 4′ in width, not including gutters. If we were given 3-4 months to test this, we would all have a better feel for what the best way to move forward is, especially before we go spend millions of dollars on a project that could cause more fatalities to local residents.
We need to be forward thinking about this. The current plans that were presented are antiquated, irresponsible, and dangerous. Please listen to the people. We live here, we love it here, and we don’t want to put ourselves or our children in further danger because of a neighborhood road that is treated like a high-speed highway.